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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 3, 2003 - Issue 86


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Milwaukee's Legend of Market Square

From: The Milwaukee News - October 9, 1900
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Indian Maiden Killed Her Father Where City Hall Fountain Stands
He Refused Peace
Askeeno, Head of Winnebagoes Wanted to Continue War on the Menomonee Tribe

If tradition is truthful, and it has to be depended upon to cover the prehistoric period, the Bergh Monument down on Market Square marks the spot where tragedy was enacted before which, for it horrors, pales as the act of Charlotte Corday. The French woman stabbed a tyrant to save her country: upon Market Square and Indian maiden is said to have killed her father, to prevent the red man from annihilating the race in their tribal warfare.

Annual Peace Conference
It was upon Market Square, so the tradition runs, that the representatives of several tribes of Indians in the Northwest, met each year in council to enact laws for the general good of the race. With the date for the meeting arrived those tribes, which were at war with each other, should be at truce, and for the time being buried the hatchet. Now a bow was bent, not a scalp was taken during the session of the council. About the great central fire, the great chiefs of several tribes sat night after night, passed the calumet from lip to lip, and discussed and passed upon the problems of state.

White Man Had Not Yet Come
It was at one of these meetings, before the white man had invaded the territory of the Winnebago, the Fox, or the Menomonees, that the legendary tragedy is said to have taken place. Even Solomon Juneau, Milwaukee's first white settler had not yet appeared on the scene. An unusually important meeting of the big chiefs of the several tribes was in progress, and among the subjects under discussion was the plan to maintain and perpetuate peace among the different tribes. Nightly sessions had been in progress fro more than a moon, as the red man reckons time. All of the chiefs had agreed to the plan save one.

Askeeno Wants War
Askeeno, a powerful Winnebago chief and his followers were at war with the Menomonees when the call for the council was issued, and there was a cessation of hostilities, according to custom. Askeeno, while consenting to sit in council with his enemy and smoke the pipe of peace with them for the time being, would not listen to the proposals for a perpetual peace, he claimed the right upon the breaking up of the council, to put upon war paint and re-engage his enemies, the Menomonees in deadly conflict.

Plead in Vain for Peace
It was in vain that that the old chiefs reasoned with him. On the last night of the council, a final effort was made to win him over to the side of peace. At that time a high bluff ran down through the center of what is now Market Square. It was covered with a forest of trees, and under their sheltering branches Askeeno and his followers had pitched their teepees. As a mark of distinction to the captious chief, the council fire was kindled in midst of his encampment. Here with the flickering flames lighting up their faces, gray haired chieftains pleaded the cause of peace. They declared the Manitou had given them the wolf and the panther to fight: that their hatchets were fashioned to seek the lives of their white foes, but that the red man should live as brothers, uniting only to fight their common enemy who was encroaching upon their territorial rights.

In response to all their pleading, Askeeno declared the only way to foster brotherly love and live in peace, was to annihilate the Menomonee.

Thinks them Effeminate
"Let those who would be women before their enemies," he exclaimed, "Go and put on your pigeon feathers and plant their corn. My arm is not weak, that I should ask mercy of the Menomonees, no is my hatchet broken that I should use soft words to those who hate me. Let my brothers go I have said."

Now it so happened that Askeeno was blessed with a daughter whose beauty was the wonder of the red man, regardless of the tribal distinction. She was a general favorite, and the braves far and near were ready to perform any feat of daring to win an approving smile from the Indian maiden. She had, more over fallen into the hands of the missionaries that were working among the red men of the northwest, and had become inspired with some of the principles taught by the church. Her sympathies were against her father in his opposition to the peace plans. She had been a silent spectator at the councils remaining beyond the charmed circle; it was being contrary to the Indian law to allow women to enter the sacred precinct of the council.

Daughter Opposes Him
Just as the council was about to break up without having accomplished its object, Nisawassa, the Indian maiden stepped into the middle of the circle about the camp fire, and raising aloft her bare rounded arm to command silence, addressed the astonished chiefs, who listened to her because they were too much taken aback to utter a protest.

"Our chiefs all know Nisawassa, who you called the Day Dream," she exclaimed, "She is a woman, and her tongue knows not the wisdom of the braves in council, but she has met with the medicine man of the pale faces, and he has sent her to whisper a word to her friends. Nisawassa has listened to the words of wisdom that have been spoken. They are good. They please the Great Spirit."

Tells of Love for Father
"Is there a Menomonee who dares say Nisawassa does not love her father? Has she not followed him on every trail, and watched when the warriors slept?"

Here the girl laid her head on her father's shoulder, and the chiefs, knowing not, what was to follow, remained like stoics.

"Is there a chief," she continued, "Who will say Nisawassa does not look up to her father as the flower looks up to the sun?"

An old gray-haired chief here broke the spell that had bound them, saying:

"There are none to answer Day Dream: but her words are for the lodge and not the council. Let her father send her away."

"He will not!" exclaimed the maiden. "You want peace! The Great Spirit grants it! See!"

Might Make Good Melodrama
Before a restraining hand could be laid upon her she had seized the knife in her father's belt, raised the keen blade aloft, and plunged it into his heart.

Once more raising aloft her arm, red with parental blood, she strode majestically out of the circle, exclaiming:

"Now let the Menomonee and the Winnebago be friends!"

The legend fails to discover to the present generation the fate of the intrepid Nisawassa, who scarified her father in the interests of peace.

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